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Dancing Between the Raindrops... More ballet than bélé

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Retired Guyanese diplomat, Rudy Insanally, does not consider his latest publication to be an “academic text” but substantial sections should make it to the list of required reading for anyone interested in acquiring a sound understanding of the worlds of diplomacy and global politics and the relationship between the two disciplines.

Dancing Between the Raindrops—A Dispatch from a Small State Diplomat, is also every inch a delicate exercise in easing between the vagaries of coarse and parochial political reality and the velvet trimmings of the international convention hall. It’s more ballet than robust bélé as the diplomat, who once thought he should be a politician, seems to emerge from the Guyanese raindrops dry as a bone. It’s almost all school text until chapter eight and an exploration of the “interplay” between politics and religion. Here, the torrent is more difficult to negotiate. “Abstention from the two topics,” Insanally writes, “made eminent sense.” 

Chapter eight therefore purports to venture where—in a career spanning 47 years—the author dared not previously tread. There is, however, little evidence in the chapter that he has any intention of so doing, even in retrospect. “Sometimes … the issues would creep up on me so suddenly, that I had no time to retreat,” Insanally writes. “As I became older, it became increasingly difficult to avoid these thorny traps to the point where, to save myself from entanglement, I became more agile and fleet of foot.”

Unless there is the subtle suggestion that “race” in the context of this chapter’s enticing title, is an abstruse reference to the unreferenced religious convictions of the country’s political leaders over the years, there is no exploration of the dynamics that drove what are presented as defining differences in approach on the part of everyone from Forbes Burnham to Donald Ramotar. There is little recourse to rigorous analysis of political philosophy and the matters that distinguished one political actor from the other. Here was the author’s opportunity to engage the rainfall but he retreats.

Burnham, for instance, was “known both for his oratorical skills and his autocratic leadership style.” Hoyte was “also a dominant figure, given I am told, to intemperate outbursts whenever he was upset by his staff.” Cheddi Jagan, who succeeded Hoyte in a landmark 1992 election, was “an honest and simple man whose great passion for improving the lot of the Guyanese people aroused by admiration for him.” Of former president, Bharrat Jagdeo, who appointed him “a technocrat minister,” Insanally saw “a decisive and dynamic leader” who was “able to reduce considerably the nation’s huge debt burden and to return the country to a development path.” Then came incumbent President Ramotar who “has committed himself to pursuing many of his predecessor’s policies especially in the social sector.”

Following his seven-year stint as Foreign minister, Insanally was engaged as a foreign policy adviser to Jagdeo and then Ramotar. “I must confess,” he writes, “that my last post as adviser to both presidents Jagdeo and Ramotar on foreign affairs, was hardly inspiring.”

He relies on Henry Kissinger’s famous quip that he was in the habit of consuming his energies “in offering unwanted advice” to suggest that his knowledge and experience were not always relied upon in the crafting of a Guyanese response to world affairs.

This section of the chapter ought to have been ten times as long as the current version. Instead, there is the delicate tip-toe to the safety zone. “In some countries such as ours … the needs of the people are great and their expectations are even greater,” he says.

“Small states,” he argues, “often lack the capacity, structurally and otherwise to guarantee ‘good governance,’” Readers who have spent any time on Multilateral Diplomacy for Small States—The art of letting others have your way, Insanally’s 2013 publication, would have come away somewhat disappointed that a book much better grounded in some of the origins of turbulent contemporary Guyanese reality had not been forthcoming.

In the end, students of international relations practice have much more to gain from this publication than those in search of greater insights into the Guyanese problematique.



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